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How to Land a VFX Job

By: Caleb Ward

In this guide, I'll show you how to land a job in the VFX industry. We'll cover everything from software to salaries.

Do you want to land a VFX studio job at ILM, Disney, or Weta? In a recent survey with Rebelway alumni, we found that the majority of aspiring VFX artists have the same goal, land a job at a dream studio. I totally understand.

Working for a killer VFX studio is a respectable and inspiring goal. We’ve all grown up watching incredible VFX and, for many of us, the thought of creating similar FX sounds like a dream come true.

But how the heck are you supposed to land a dream job at a VFX studio?

For many, the process of figuring out how to land a gig in the VFX industry sounds elusive, if not, impossible. However, we’re excited to tell you that it is definitely possible to not only land an incredible job in the VFX industry, but also land a job at your DREAM studio. It just takes patience and persistence.

So if you’re ready to land a gig at your dream studio, you’ve found the right page.

How to Land a VFX Job - D

The Typical Path Into the VFX Industry

Is there a perfect way to get into the VFX industry? No.

And if someone says there is a perfect path, they are probably trying to sell you something.

The truth is, if you ask one person, they might say they started in the industry by getting coffee for executives and the next might say they started through an internship referral from a friend. There are a myriad of different ways to get into the VFX industry, but if we had to create a formula, the typical path into the VFX industry is this:

  1. You Attend a VFX School or Online Training
  2. You Land an Internship at a Studio (Typically In-Person)
  3. After the Internship, You Land a Junior or Runner Job a Studio
 (Typically the Internship Studio)
  4. You Work Hard for a Couple Years and Move into a Mid-Level Artist Role
  5. You Network with Artists and Regularly Update Your Portfolio and Reel
  6. Over Time, Referrals and Hard Work will Drive You to Senior-Level Positions


There it is. Now you know what the typical path is like… but you probably have 500 more questions.

In the rest of this guide, we will try to answer as many questions as possible related to the path that we outlined, and create a system for you to land your dream job in the VFX industry. But first, let’s chat about what to expect as a VFX artist.

How to Land a VFX Job - Futuristic UI Design

VFX Industry Salaries

Before we start talking about the perfect path into the VFX industry, we thought it’d be helpful to chat about what it’s like to be in the VFX industry and answer a few common questions that people have.

Are VFX Artists in Demand?

Yes, good VFX artists are definitely in demand, and as the entertainment industry continues to grow, VFX artists will continue to be in demand.

However, note that we said ‘good’ VFX artists. It’s not enough to just have passion, charisma, a good personality, or a degree, you must be a legitimately good VFX artist to land a dream job in VFX. There is a shortage of truly great VFX artists.

Like every other creative industry in the world, competition can be fierce for the best positions. There’s also a lot of pressure for VFX studios to move their studios from US locations like LA to countries that feature cheaper labor or tax credits. This means you may find yourself in a city like Montreal instead of Los Angeles.

However, if you have a killer portfolio, a good attitude, and the ability to relocate, you will be better suited than 90% of the applicants that apply for any given position.

How to Land a VFX Job - Crashed Spaceship

How Much Does the Average VFX Artist Make a Year?

According to Glassdoor, the average VFX Artist in the United States makes $81,936 a year. However, that number greatly differs depending on your specific position and experience. Here’s a breakdown of salary averages for key VFX positions

  • VFX Internship Salary: $11- $17 an Hour
  • VFX Runner: $15 an Hour
  • Junior VFX Artist: $51,552 a Year ($25 an Hour)
  • Mid-Level VFX Artist: $67,724 a Year ($32 an Hour)
  • Senior VFX Artist: $104,000 a Year ($50 an Hour)
  • VFX Supervisor: $160,000 a Year ($75 an Hour)

Broken down based on years of experience the average VFX artist makes the following:

  • 0-2 Years of Experience: $51,552 a Year ($25 an Hour)
  • 2-4 Years of Experience: $67,724 a Year ($32 an Hour)
  • 5+ Years of Experience: $104,000 a Year ($50 an Hour)

Typically, ‘Dream Studios’ are able to offer more salary to their employees because their quality standards allow them to hire the best talent. For example, here are the average mid-level VFX artist salaries at a few popular dream studios:

  • Disney VFX Artist Salary: $124K-$133K
  • Dreamworks VFX Artist Salary: $147-$160K
  • Blizzard VFX Artist Salary: $90-$100K

That amount is absurdly high compared to other studios, but they have the pockets to afford the best artists in the world.

Which VFX Positions are Paid the Most?

In general, the more technical and experienced the position, the more money you will make in the VFX industry. There are scores of talented artists out there, but very few artists have taken the time to round out their skills by gaining the software/technical skills required to succeed and stand out. Here’s a quick break- down of the average income of various VFX job types.

VFX Jobs Ranked from Highest Average Pay to Lowest:

  1. VFX Supervisor: $160,000 a Year ($75 an Hour)
  2. Technical Director: $92,190 a Year ($44 an Hour)
  3. Compositor: $69,655 a Year ($33 an Hour)
  4. FX Artist: $69,168 a Year ($33 an Hour)
  5. VFX Generalist: $59,515 a Year ($28 an Hour)
  6. 3D Modeler: $59,515 a Year ($28 an Hour)
  7. Storyboard Artist: $41,897 a Year ($20 an Hour)
  8. VFX Runner: $31,200 a year ($15 an Hour)
How to Land a VFX Job - Many Explosions

The Problem with VFX Salaries

You might see the salary numbers and have mixed emotions, but there’s a very important note that aspiring VFX artists should recognize. Most VFX artists are hired for a limited contract.

While companies like Disney and Dreamworks have the financial capital to continually employ an army of artists, many studios are only able to offer temporary contracts based on projects. This means that while you may make good money for a season, your income can sometimes be inconsistent or irregular.

Studios often keep key personnel like supervisors and engineers as full-time staff and hire artist roles like compositors, FX artists, and lighting directors as they have project needs. A healthy studio will typically have the next job lined up once a project is complete, leading to a contract employee to feel like they have a full- time job.

In fact, you might freelance as an hourly employee for years at a time, this is called ‘permalancing’.

However, you also might work for 3 months and be without a job once the contract is up. It all depends on the type of studio you are working with.

You can typically read reviews on services like Glassdoor to analyze the hiring style of your dream studio.

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Why Are Most VFX Jobs Hourly?

Many VFX studios hire artists at an hourly rate. This may seem strange, but in many cases it can greatly benefit you as a VFX artist.

For example, it is a well known fact that VFX artists typically work longer hours than a normal employee in a different industry.

Around deadlines, it’s not uncommon for artists to work well into the night and on weekends. If you were a salaried employee, such a working environment could easily get out of hand.

This is why many labor organizers have negotiated contracts with VFX studios to fight for hourly rates that also increase for over- time and weekends. An hourly rate is a check-and-balance system that rewards you for working longer hours.

You will likely negotiate an hourly or daily rate with a studio, rather than a yearly salary. Just use a simple calculator to figure out exactly what you need.

How to Land a VFX Job - Realtime FX Character

The Best Locations for VFX Artists

Let’s talk about some of the best locations for VFX artists around the world.

What Country is Best for VFX Artists?

The best country for VFX artists is the United States. There are simply more jobs and opportunities than anywhere else. Here’s a breakdown of the total number of estimated employed VFX artists per country (Info from Studio Hog):

  1. United States: 9,441 – 37,637
  2. Canada: 5,189-17,615
  3. India: 3,511-13,087
  4. United Kingdom: 2,646-10,798
  5. Australia: 1,257-4,233


There’s a great case for moving to Canada to pursue a career in VFX as there is less competition. Studios seem to be popping up every week in places like Montreal and Vancouver, making Canada a great choice for breaking into the industry.

However, if you are a skilled VFX artist and passionate about improving your skills, you’ll be able to find a job in any major VFX city with hard work and dedication.

How to Land a VFX Job - Crane Explosions

Which City is Best for VFX Artists?

According to multiple sources, Vancouver is the best city for aspiring VFX artists. Many major studios like ILM and Sony have decided to set up permanent locations in Vancouver and the cost of living is less expensive than other cities like LA or San Francisco. Here’s a list of great cities for VFX artists courtesy of LifeWire:

  1. Vancouver, BC
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. London, England
  4. San Francisco, CA
  5. Montreal, QC

There are of course other cities that are known for VFX like Berlin, Toronto, and Austin. But if you were to land at either one of the five cities on that list above you will never find a shortage of studios looking for great talent.

How to Land a VFX Job - Rise Course

The Most Important VFX Software to Learn

Now let’s talk about the software you’ll need to understand in order to become a VFX artist.

We’ll break down which specific software you should learn based on your desired niche in the industry further on, but for now, here are the most popular and import tools in the VFX industry.

1. Houdini

Created By: SideFX

Primary Application: Simulation

Houdini by SideFX is the premiere FX tool used to create high-end simulations including fire, smoke, water, particles, and more. While it is best known for simulation, some artists also find it to be a helpful tool for modeling, rigging, lighting, and more. Houdini has a steep learning curve, making it a challenging tool for new VFX artists to learn.

Typically an artist will learn a 3D package like Maya, 3DS Max, or Cinema 4D before moving on to Houdini for further specialization.

Houdini’s practical functionality is also expanding as a lot of studios are starting to use the tool as their main in-house tool for character FX, rigging, and animation workflows. Studios often develop their own proprietary tools inside Houdini to perform specific tasks and optimize processes.

2. Maya

Created By: Autodesk
Primary Application: 3D Modeling & Animation

Maya is the 3D package of choice in the VFX industry. Using Maya, artists can model, animate, and render 3D scenes. Maya has been specifically designed to be integrated into animation pipelines. However, many studios are beginning to transition to Houdini pipelines as SideFX makes improvements to animation, character FX, and rigging tools. Like Houdini, many studios de- velop their own proprietary tools inside Maya to perform specific tasks.

3. Nuke

Created By: The Foundry

Primary Application: Compositing

Nuke is a high-end 3D compositing application that is the go-to tool for most of the major VFX studios in the world. Nuke’s node-based digital compositing system makes it a great choice for high-end FX work.

4. Photoshop

Created By: Adobe
Primary Application: Image Editing & Processing

Photoshop is another must-know tool for FX artists to master. VFX artists use Photoshop primarily to prepare image assets for 3D work. Photoshop is mainly used for matte paintings, concept art, and illustrations. It is also used extensively in game development to create hand-painted textures like those found in World of Warcraft or Valorant.

5. Arnold Renderer

Owned By: Autodesk
Primary Application: Realistic Rendering

Arnold is a render engine that makes it easy to render complex and realistic 3D scenes. It has been used to render some of the most visually stunning films of all time including The Avengers and Gravity.

6. Unreal Engine

Created By: Epic Games

Primary Application: Realtime 3D

Unreal Engine is a real-time 3D creation platform. Using Unreal, you can create 3D scenes that can be rendered in realtime, making it a go-to choice for game developers, VR creators, and live FX projects.

7. ZBrush

Created By: Pixologic
Primary Application: Modeling

ZBrush is a 3D modeling tool used to craft highly detailed 3D models for VFX work. The tool really shines with character and creature creation. If you want to create realistic 3D models, this is an essential tool to master.

8. Substance Painter

Created By: Adobe
Primary Application: Painting Textures

Substance Painter allows VFX artists to paint and texture models. Think of it as a tool that allows you to perfectly color your 3D assets.

9. Substance Designer

Created By: Adobe
Primary Application: Creating Custom Materials

Substance Designer is a tool that allows VFX artists to create cus- tom materials in a procedural workflow. If you need to create a texture from scratch, this is the best tool to use.

10. After Effects

Created By: Adobe
Primary Application: Motion Design

Most high-end VFX houses do not use After Effects to create VFX. While you can create VFX in the software, it is primarily a compositing application with effects and plugins that make it a good choice for projects with super fast turnaround times. In the VFX world, After Effects is typically used as a ‘Finishing’ application for adding in extra effects like color adjustments and asset overlays. It is also used to prepare 2D motion design elements for everything from data visualizations to explainer videos.

What About Other VFX Tools?

Truth be told, there are many other applications that we could have placed on this list. From Cinema 4D to Blender, there are some truly incredible applications out there that deserve a mention.

However, the 10 applications listed are industry-standard. In our opinion, it’s best to start learning the tools you need to know right away. It will save you more time in the long run, even though the learning curve can be steep in the beginning.

How to Land a VFX Job - Environment Creation in Houdini

VFX Education

The first step to landing your dream VFX job is to get educated in the world of VFX. It’s no secret… VFX is a complex and highly technical industry.

As a result, you’ll need to be very motivated to learn the skills necessary to succeed. Let’s look at a few common questions that people have when learning VFX.

Do I need to attend a VFX college or school to land a career in VFX?

No, you do not have to attend a VFX college to have a career in VFX. Plenty of successful artists have self-trained themselves using online VFX courses to land jobs at major studios. At the end of the day, it’s your proficiency, portfolio, and personality that will help you land a job, not your degree.

However, around 60% of successful VFX artists have attended college and received a degree in a VFX-related field like Computer Generated Art (Rebelway Industry Survey 2020). Even if you’re passionate, it can be challenging to have the self-discipline and drive to learn the skills and software required to build a great portfolio.

Good VFX colleges will give you a step-by-step curriculum and guide you through the specific steps you need to be proficient enough to land an entry-level VFX gig.

If you have the financial means or scholarships, we recommend the following schools:

  1. Gnomon (Los Angeles)
 / $85K for 3-Year Program
  2. Think Tank Training Center (Vancouver)
 / $38,000 for 1 -Year Program
  3. Lost Boys | School of Visual FX – (Montreal/Vancouver) / $41,900 for 1-Year Program

All of these schools have a proven track record for helping their students land jobs at some of the biggest studios in the world.

How to Land a VFX Job - Energy Shield

How Much Does it Cost to Attend VFX School?

VFX school is not cheap. In fact, most VFX schools cost about $30,000 a year without room, board, supplies, or books. Coupled with the fact that VFX schools tend to be located in very expensive cities and the reality of going to an in-person VFX school can seem almost impossible. In fact, the average annual cost to students of the Gnomon School of Visual Effects is $47,473 a year. Over the course of 3 years that can equate to over $120,000.

As a result, many professional VFX artists recommend getting a part-time job and learning from online courses and tutorials rather than going to an in-person school. In fact, you’ll never really stop learning as a VFX artist anyways. There will always be new techniques to learn and Houdini courses to attend. School is only the beginning of your VFX education.

Attending A VFX School: Quick Pros and Cons List

Pros:

• You’ll learn many of the skills you’ll need.
• You can ask questions with your instructor.
• You’ll network with fellow artists.
• You’ll receive a degree.
• You’ll likely be near VFX studios.
• It will be easier to land an internship.
• There may be employee matching programs.

Cons:

  • • Price
  • • Waste of time & money if you change careers.
  • • Some schools teach outdated techniques.
  • • You aren’t guaranteed a job.
  • • Cities with VFX schools can be expensive.
  • • Paying off debt for years.
How to Land a VFX Job - Rebelway Chase Course

Is VFX School Worth it?

From our industry survey in 2020, only about 35% of VFX college graduates are working full-time as artists in the VFX industry. That low number, when paired with the price of attendance, leads us to the conclusion that VFX school is not worth it if you must go into debt to pay for it.

If you are able to pay with scholarships, or if you are lucky enough to have a family who will pay for the experience, VFX school could be a great option for you. But the majority of artists who attend VFX school will go into debt and will not be employed as full-time VFX artists after graduation.

Simply put, attending a VFX school is a gamble. This is why many professionals recommend taking online VFX courses instead. Because as you’ll soon learn, your degree doesn’t actually mean much to hiring managers.

How to Land a VFX Job - Fireball

Alternatives to VFX School

If VFX school is simply too expensive or unrealistic for your situation in life, there is good news, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives to VFX school that will equip you to land gigs at major studios. Here are a few of our favs:

  1. Rebelway – We offer Houdini courses for new VFX artists and practicing professionals alike. Our alumni go on to work at places like ILM, Disney, and Weta.
  2. FXPHD – The team at FXPHD has been cranking out fantastic VFX courses for years.
  3. Learned Squared – Learned Squared is a great option to get short-format courses taught by some of the best in the biz.
  4. CG Circuit – A quality place to find inexpensive Houdini tutorials taught by world-class artists.
  5. Applied Houdini – Brainchild of Steven Knipping, an ILM FX TD with a ton of great courses for Houdini artists.
  6. CG Masters Academy – A home to dozens of courses that cover a wide array of CG topics including VFX, Animation, Digital Illustration, and more.

It should be noted that if you decide to skip VFX school for a self-taught program, we highly recommend dedicating a substantial amount of hours per week to learning VFX. You should treat your education just as seriously as an in-person school. Here are a few rules for creating an alternative VFX education:

  1. Dedicate At Least 30 Hours a Week for Learning & Practice
  2. Network with Fellow Artists Online and In-Person
  3. Reach Out to Industry Professionals to Ask Questions
  4. Create a Portfolio and Share Your Homework Online

Unlike an in-person school, you will need to be more self-motivated to find success through self-paced education. As a result, it is highly important for you to join as many networking groups as possible, both in-person and online. For example, we’ve created an online chat portal at Rebelway to allow artists to connect around the world.

How to Land a VFX Job - Giant Nuke

Landing a VFX Internship

So you now have a VFX education and you’re feeling pretty great about your skills? That’s pretty cool.

The next step to landing your dream job in the VFX industry is to get an internship at a respectable studio.

How do I land a VFX Internship?

Landing a VFX internship is similar to landing an internship at any other company. You will likely need to apply to the internship and do at least one interview.

Things You’ll Need to Land a VFX Internship:

  1. A Great Demo Reel
  2. A Portfolio
  3. A Great Attitude
  4. Financial Savings to Support The Lower Pay

While some internships are remote, you will more than likely need to travel in-person to the studio to complete the internship. As stated before, this means you will likely need to move to Vancouver, Los Angeles, London, San Francisco, or Montreal.

None of these cities are known for being cheap, so you will need to save up some money and/or be ok with living in a very basic living situation for a few months. You will likely need to find a roommate(s) and live on a dollar menu diet for a while.

When it comes to internships, there should be a hierarchy of goals. Here’s the list from most difficult to least difficult:

  1. Land an Internship at Your Dream Studio (Disney, ILM, etc.)
  2. Land an Internship at a Good VFX Studio (CosaFX, Method, Barnstorm)
  3. Land an Internship at a VFX Studio
  4. Land an Internship at an Entertainment Company

The best studios (obviously) have the most competition around their internship positions and it is likely that you will be competing with hundreds of other applicants. Landing an internship is a monumental step forward in your career, even if it’s not a Disney.

The more skills you bring to the table the more likely you are to land the internship.

How to Land a VFX Job - Lightning Effect

Tips for Landing a Great Internship

Here are a few of our favorite tips for landing a VFX internship.

1. Have a Great Demo Reel

A great demo reel is the BEST way to stand out as a VFX artist. Your demo reel will show hiring managers that you are capable of creating great FX work. Keep the reel short (under 2 minutes) and always start with your best work. It should make people excited and im- pressed right off the bat.

2. Have a Great Portfolio

Create an online portfolio that features your work and any GREAT examples of your artistic capabilities. If you don’t have enough work, create fake projects to include in your portfolio. Show that you understand the pipeline of VFX by showing screenshots from the various stages of production, from sketch to render.

3. Ask for Help

Find other VFX artists in the department in which you want to work. Reach out to them and ask for any advice on who to talk to about the gig. You’ll often find that by making a friend at the studio you can more easily land a gig. It also makes it 5x easier to say ‘Greg Smith’ referred you to the hiring manager, rather than sending a cold email.

4. Send Follow-Up Emails

Reach out to the head of recruiting or HR at the studio in which you apply. Let them know that you are interested in the internship and willing to do whatever it takes to land the gig. Prove that you are familiar with the studio’s work and share what skills you might be able to bring to the table.

5. Hit Them Up on Social

Send messages to their social accounts and ask if there’s anything you can do to stand out.

6. Make Yourself Known

Most applicants will send a resume and basic portfolio, some will send follow-up emails, but very few candidates will go out of their way to do something special for their application. For example, make a VFX video about why you want the gig. Write a song. Send a case of custom beer with your face on it to the hiring manager. It may sound ridiculous, but you will ABSOLUTELY stand out if you follow this strategy. After all, this is your dream studio. Don’t let shame keep you from landing the gig, this is your ‘boombox in the rain’ moment.


Once You Land an Internship...

After you land an internship there are two rules: work hard and be a good person. Your work ethic and personality will open more doors than anything else. Befriend as many people as possible at the studio. Get your work done, show up on time, and learn from experienced artists and leaders at the job. Everyone has something to teach you.

If you’re a decent person with a good work ethic you’ll have a good chance at landing a job at the studio.

However, if the studio decides to just keep it as a temporary internship, that’s also fine. Which transitions us to the next step in your career.

How to Land a VFX Job - Dark Explosion Cloud

Landing a Junior VFX Job

Most people land their first jobs at a VFX studio as a Junior Artist or VFX Runner. Let’s take a look at how to land one of these gigs.

What is a Junior Artist?

As the name implies, a Junior VFX Artist is a position that is typically reserved for artists who are new to VFX or straight out of school. A Junior VFX Artist position is the perfect role for someone looking to learn and get their foot in the door. Studios typically hire VFX positions as Junior, Mid, and Senior level. As a result, there is less expectation for Junior Artists to be masters of their craft.

Junior Artists make an average of $51,552 a Year,
 or about $25 an Hour.

What is a VFX Runner?

A VFX Runner is a person who does a variety of support tasks at a studio. Typically runners will deliver messages, files, and materials as-needed. VFX Runners are like Production Assistants on a film set, they do a variety of tasks for lower-than-ideal pay. A runner is more on the ‘Production’ team than the ‘Artistic’ team, making it a great position for someone who is looking to become a production manager or producer. A runner position is a great way to learn the inner-workings of a VFX studio.

The average VFX runner makes $31,200 a year,
 or $15 an Hour.

These junior roles help you gain the skills you need to get your foot in the door even if you don’t have the experience of a typical mid-level VFX Artist. Typically someone will work in a Junior Artist role from 6 months to 2 years before being promoted to a mid-level VFX Artist role.

How to Land a VFX Job - Futuristic UI Design Earth

How to Land a Junior VFX Artist Role

Landing a Junior VFX role is very similar to landing a VFX internship. If you’ve already read these tips, feel free to skip them:

1. A Great Demo Reel

Make sure your demo reel is up-to-date and awesome. Always start with the best content.

2. A Great Portfolio

Include a diverse array of artwork and styles in your portfolio. Some artists get really deep into personal branding and design consistency. But what matters most is that your work is impressive.

3. Ask for Help

Reach out to people who work at the studio. Ask them for any tips on landing a gig or contacting the hiring manager.

4. Follow Up

Reach out to the head of recruiting or HR at the studio in which you apply. Let them know that you are interested in the job and willing to do whatever it takes to land the gig. Prove that you are familiar with the studio’s work and share what skills you might be able to bring to the table.

5. Hit Them Up on Social

Send messages to their social accounts and ask if there’s anything you can do to stand out.

6. Make Yourself Known

Most applicants will send a resume and basic portfolio, some will send follow-up emails, but very few candidates will go out of their way to do something special for their application. For example, make a VFX video about why you want the gig. Write a song. Send a case of custom beer with your face on it to the hiring manager. It may sound ridiculous, but you will ABSOLUTELY stand out if you follow this strategy. After all, this is your dream studio. Don’t let shame keep you from landing the gig, this is your ‘boombox in the rain’ moment.

How to Land a VFX Job - Earth Shattering Images

Landing a Mid-Level VFX Job

Once you have some experience under your belt, it’s time to land a mid-level VFX gig.

How to Know if You're 'Good' Enough to Land a Decent VFX Job

Many aspiring artists wonder if their work is ‘good’ enough to land a job in VFX. One of the best ways to tell if your work is up-to-par with what is expected to land a position is to simply email your demo reel and portfolio to artists or hiring managers at various studios. You can hit them up on LinkedIn, Instagram, or email.

Ask for some feedback and see if they can spot any areas to improve. People are typically excited to give someone feedback or too busy to bother. It’s worth reaching out either way.

Even if they don’t have a spot for you at their studio, they might be able to refer you to another studio.

How to Land a VFX Job - Rise Earth Shatter

What Skills Do You Need to Land a VFX Job?

When it comes to landing a VFX job you need to have what I call ‘The Trifecta of Competency’.

1. Experience: What You've Done

Experience is pretty straight-forward… do you have real experience doing the required tasks? If you don’t have the experience, do everything in your power to gain experience. This includes landing an internship or entry-level job. Most mid-level artist jobs require 2-3 years of experience at a studio.

2. Your Personality: Soft Skills

Soft skills are interpersonal skills that have a lot to do with your character and personality. Notable soft skills include:

  1. Communication
  2. Optimistic Personality
  3. Organizational Skills
  4. Teamwork
  5. Motivation

Many people applying for your position may have the same hard-skills, but having great soft skills will make you a likable person and increase your chances of landing the gig.

3. Your Proficiency: Hard Skills

Hard skills are the specific skills that you will bring to the table. Understanding Houdini, 3D modeling, compositing in Nuke, and rendering with Arnold are examples of hard skills. You will need to have different skills depending on the job you want. We’ll list out the specific skills in the next section.

How to Land a VFX Job - Magic FX

What Software Do I Need to Learn to Land a VFX Job?

Here’s a rough breakdown of the ideal skills you’ll need, but keep in mind that studios may look for something different depending on their own needs and pipelines.

Skills Required for Aspiring VFX Generalists:

  1. Working Knowledge of Maya or 3DS Max (Modeling, Texturing, Lighting, Rendering)
  2. Working Knowledge of Photoshop
  3. Working Knowledge of After Effects
  4. Optional Skills: Houdini, Scripting, Illustration,
 Animation, Unreal Engine

Skills Required for Aspiring Game FX Artists:

  1. Working Knowledge of Unreal Engine or Unity
  2. Working Knowledge of Maya or 3DS Max (Modeling, Texturing, Lighting, Rendering)
  3. Working Knowledge of Photoshop
  4. Optional Skills: Houdini, Scripting, Illustration,
 Animation,

Skills Required for Aspiring FX/Simulation Artists:

  1. Working Knowledge of Houdini (Simulation, Nodes, Shaders, etc.)
  2. Working Knowledge of Maya (Modeling, Texturing, Lighting, Rendering)
  3. Working Knowledge of Compositing in Nuke
  4. Working Knowledge of Photoshop
  5. Optional Skills: Scripting, Math, 3DS Max, Tool Creation, Illustration, Animation,
 Unreal Engine,

Skills Required for Aspiring Technical Directors:

  1. Working Knowledge of Python
  2. Working Knowledge of Compositing in Nuke
  3. Working Knowledge of Houdini
  4. Working Knowledge of Arnold or VRAY
  5. Optional Skills: Maya, Photoshop, Scripting, Math, 3DS Max, Tool Creation, Illustration,
 Animation, Unreal Engine, PyQT, mysql, PyMEL, C/C++,

If you don’t have the skills required to land one of your dream positions listed above, stop reading this sentence and sign up for a course on that subject. There’s no better time to start learning than right now. There is a high demand for artists who meet the criteria listed above.

How to Land a VFX Job - Magic Portal Character

How to Make an Awesome Demo Reel

A great demo reel is hands-down the best tool you have for marketing yourself as a VFX artist. Demo Reels are helpful because they:

1. Prove Your Skills

A demo reel is going to prove to a hiring manager that you know what you’re doing. Aside from a direct reference, a demo reel is the only way to prove that you are up to the challenge of working at a high-end studio. As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.

2. Show Your Taste

A demo reel is a quick snapshot of your own taste and curation skills as an artist. As an artist, you are developing your own personal brand, and your ability to reinforce your brand in everything from music to MoGraph is what will help set you apart from the crowd.

3. Create Trust

Some artists (but certainly not you) will lie on their demo reel by sharing work that other people have made, or curating the reel to over-exaggerate their contributions to the project. Don’t be that person. Include text in the bottom corner of the screen to give your shots context.

Some artists prefer to create a demo reel that is timed to music and dramatically edited to feel like a movie trailer, while others opt for a more simple approach and create a short montage of their work.

We personally recommend injecting your own personality into your demo reel. From music to motion design, try to make your demo reel stand out. You want it to be something that people watch and get excited about. The more people who like and share your reel, the more opportunities you’ll have to be seen by potential hiring managers and studio executives.

Our Demo Reel Tips

Here are a few of our favorite tips for creating a demo reel.

1. Start with Your Best Shots

People decide if they want to watch a video within the first 8 seconds, as a result, you should front load your VFX demo reel with the best content possible.


2. Keep it Short

Ideal demo reels are typically 1-2 minutes long. You want to keep the audience engaged. Think of it as a movie trailer for you.


3. Include Contextual Descriptions

Let people know what you did on each individual shot in your demo reel by adding some white text to a bottom corner. If you don’t give context, people will have no idea what role you served in the shot.


4. Cut to Music

Like a movie trailer, the track you pick for your demo reel is going to set the tone of how people perceive you. Try to pick a track that reinforces your brand as a person and the industry you are trying to break into. For example, if you are trying to do abstract simulation work, a cool indie-track might be the way to go. If you are trying to create epic movie destruction FX, a rock track might be your best bet. I typically recommend PremiumBeat for music because they are royalty-free and high quality, but you can find some cheaper options out there.


5. Give Yourself a Title

Don’t just include your name at the end of the video, let people know what type of artist you are. If you want to be a technical director, put Technical Director. If you want to be an FX Artist, put FX Artist. Don’t let imposter syndrome keep you from claiming your dream role.


6. Add Your Contact Details

Add your contact details to the end of your demo reel. This should include a link to your portfolio and your email address. And for the love of all things rendered, if you have an unprofessional email address get a new one. If you can’t think of a good address just do [email protected]
 (ex. [email protected])


7. Create an Engaging Featured Image

After you’ve created your demo reel, it’s time to create an engaging featured image. Some people opt to just use a great thumbnail from the video itself, others will create something more custom. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do this, just make sure that the thumbnail is engaging.


8. Publish On All Social Channels

Once your demo reel is complete, publish it on all of your social channels. Be sure to use hashtags on Instagram and Twitter. Most importantly, publish it to Vimeo and YouTube. Vimeo is the best tool for getting your demo reel seen by the right people. Note: You may have to do a 59 second cutdown for Instagram.


9. Do a Little PR

After you share out your demo reel, it’s time to do a little PR work. Share your demo reel with online demo reel curation communities on Vimeo, add it to the VFX subreddit, and send it to Instagram communities that repost VFX videos (like using #RebelwayFX to be featured on the Rebelway Instagram).


How to Land a VFX Job - Rolling Explosion

What If I Don't Have Enough Content for My Demo Reel?

One question that I get asked all the time is, ‘what if I don’t have good/enough content for my demo reel?’ The answer to this question is simple, stop overthinking it and create something. Follow tutorials, take a class, experiment, combine two shots from your favorite artist, etc.

The list could go on and on.

What matters is that you create something that fits the job you want, not the job you have. Your demo reel should be aspirational for the gigs you want to have in the future. Hiring managers at top studios want to see that you have the chops to work on professional projects and if you don’t have the in-person experience, your next best option is to prove your skills with your reel.

Reels don’t lie. You can have all of the awards, experience, degrees, and courses under your belt, but if your reel looks bad, nobody is going to care.

How to Land a VFX Job - Explosions Near Tanks

How to Make an Awesome Portfolio

A portfolio is simply an online place for you to collect your favorite projects in one place. However, one of the mistakes that I see new artists often make is including every project they’ve ever worked on. This is a big mistake.

The largest studios in the world will typically only post around 20% of the projects they work on. Why? Well, they are trying to keep up the perceived quality of their work.

For example, if Pixar Animation included a Disneyland Travel DVD project on their portfolio site, it’d be weird. The studio is capable of doing far more than what their day-to-day projects demand, that’s why they only include the best projects in their portfolio.

The same will be true for you.

Make it your mission to create a portfolio site that you can be proud of. Quality trumps quantity. Only include your best projects. But you may be asking…

How to Land a VFX Job - Lightning

What Tool is Best for Hosting a Portfolio?

If you don’t know how to make a portfolio, don’t worry. Just use user-friendly tools like Squarespace to host your site. There are templates that can get you started. If you can use technical VFX or editing software, you can definitely build a drag-and-drop website.

Some artists opt to only have a portfolio on Behance, Artstation, or Dribbble. While I definitely think you should post your awesome projects on those platforms, you should always have your own web- site.

You don’t control how third-party portfolio sites show and share your work. If one day Behance decided that it is going to reduce the number of VFX projects shown in the algorithm, you might lose your potential reach by 50%. That wouldn’t be cool.

As a result, It’s important to funnel traffic and people from all kinds of different online platforms (Vimeo, Facebook, Artstation, etc.) to your site because you have control over those platforms. As more people visit your website, you will slowly build up a following. Over time, this following could evolve into a collection of people who are ready to hire you or even buy a course or tool.

You never know where your career could take you, so it’s best to start building up your website now. Here are a few things to include in your portfolio:

  1. Links to Your Social Profiles
  2. A Contact Page
  3. Your Email Address
  4. Case Studies and Project Breakdowns
  5. A Good Picture of Yourself
  6. An About Page
  7. Logos of Companies You’ve Worked With
  8. Quotes from Previous Clients or Employers


Do your research and analyze your favorite artist’s portfolio. You’ll likely find many of these same elements.

How to Land a VFX Job - Monster Walking Through Explosion

A VFX Resume

The goal of a resume is to prove your proficiency and experience, not showcase your artwork. Keep your resume simple.

There is a trend to over-stylize a resume with tons of color, design, and flare, but in my experience, design often distracts from the resume.

Try to keep your design to a minimum. A custom header or footer is as far as you should push it.

Many studios are quickly glancing to look for technical proficiency and experience. So be sure to include bulleted lists and place your software skills front and center.

Things to Include on a VFX Resume

  1. Name

  2. Location

  3. Phone

  4. Email

  5. Work Experience

    Dates of Employment

    Notable Projects or Clients
 Direct Reports

    Technical Proficiencies
 Organizational Skills
 Understanding of VFX Pipelines

  6. Education (If Any)

  7. Hard & Soft Skills

    Software

    Render Engines

    Communication Skills

    Interpersonal Skills

    Critical Skills (Takes Feedback, Works Well Under Pressure, etc.)

  8. References (If Applicable)


If you’d like to find a free VFX resume template, here’s a link to one of our favs. Just make sure to change up the words. Who knows how many people have used this template.

How to Land a VFX Job - In the air explosion

Applying for a VFX Job

If you have a demo reel, portfolio, and resume in place, it’s time to begin applying for a job. The hiring process at a studio can vary greatly depending on what the studio is looking for. How- ever, the process for applying for a gig is similar to that of a typical job. You will need to apply via their online application system and be sure to send a link to your demo reel and portfolio.

As soon as you apply, send a follow-up email to the hiring manager at the studio. You can usually find their information via LinkedIn or using an email finder tool like Hunter.io.

The message should follow the following format:

  1. Write a personal note
  2. Talk about why you’re reaching out.
  3. Share what value you’ll bring to the table.
  4. Ask to connect with the person hiring the role.

Here’s an example:

Hey Saber,

I hope you are doing well in this season. It looks like things are pretty crazy in New York.

I have a quick question for you.

I was looking at the jobs board on your studio’s website and saw that you are hiring a 3D
 Generalist to work in your film department.

As it turns out, I have all of the skills listed in the job posting so I applied for the role.

I think my experience on similar 3D projects would make me a great asset to the studio. But 
 ultimately I’m looking to get some feedback on my demo reel to let me know if my suspicion
 is correct.

As a result, I’m looking to contact the hiring manager for the role and get some feedback on
 my reel as it relates to the position.

Are you the hiring manager for this position?

If not, would you mind connecting me with the person hiring the 3D generalist role?

Thank you in advance. I know you’re probably busy, but I really appreciate it.

Thank You,

Your Name

I like to use a tool called ‘Mail Track‘ to tell me if someone has opened my email. If they have opened your email and didn’t respond, send a follow email as a reminder.

If you still get no response, try a different email address at the company. If you still don’t get a response, you can use the company’s contact page to get a general studio email address.

Studios are notorious for taking a long time to contact candidates. Keep that in mind as you wait for your call back.

How to Land a VFX Job - Rise Alien Space Ship

Interviewing for a VFX Job

Interviewing at a studio is not as scary as it seems. Typically the person doing the interview has experience as an artist or they work closely with other artists in their day-to-day jobs. As a result, you can usually break the ice by talking about ‘nerdy’ topics like render engines, a new VFX trend, or an interesting VFX project that you’ve seen.

These candid conversations not only make the interview process easier, but they also prove that you are a good person to be around.

Practice your interview with a fellow artist or friend before the interview.

Don’t lie in your interview. Hiring managers can snuff out a lie from a mile away. Instead, be forthcoming about your own experience and knowledge.

It’s kinda funny, but I’ve found that it’s actually humility, not pride, that keeps people from landing gigs. As an artist, you have way more experience than they realize.

Seriously, get a sheet of paper and write down all of your experience as an artist. You’ll quickly realize that you’re a lot more knowledgeable than you think.

Questions they will probably ask:

  1. Tell me a little about yourself
  2. What skills do you have?
  3. What are your creative strengths?
  4. What areas do you need to improve?
  5. How do you feel about working nights and/or weekends?

Questions to ask in the interview:

  1. When will you be filling this role?
  2. In your opinion, are there any skills needed for this position that I am missing?

The Post Interview Follow-Up

After the interview, you should immediately send a follow-up email to the person who interviewed you. Say thank you for the interview and let them know you are available if they have any further questions.

You will likely have multiple interviews. Send a follow-up email every time.

How to Land a VFX Job - Water FX Image

The 3 Main Ways to Land a Dream Job at Your Favorite VFX Studio

Up to this point, we’ve talked about how to land a junior and mid-level VFX job. But if you didn’t choose the VFX industry to be mid-level your entire career.

You’re a dreamer, and as such, you probably have a very specific role at a very specific company that you want to work for.

From my experience, I’ve found that there are really three main ways to land these jobs at high-end VFX studios.

Technique #1: Start at the Very Bottom, Move Up Over Time

The first way to land your dream job is to do it the ‘old fashion way’. Get an entry-level job at the company you want to work for and work your way up to the position you want to have. Sometimes this can take a few months, but it will probably take a few years. If it truly is a world-class studio, you also might have to take a pay cut and ‘title’ cut to get your foot in the door. A Senior FX artist at a small regional studio might only be a mid-level FX artist at ILM.

Technique #2: Become Incredible in a Niche, Apply for Positions as they Appear

Another technique for landing a dream job is to go out and gain the skills needed to land the gig and make a name for yourself in that niche. For example, if you want to be a particle FX artist at Disney, become a legendary particle FX artist that is too good to ignore.

Practice in your free time, post on Instagram, and continually improve your skills. Once your dream studio gig opens up, apply. If you’ve already made a name for yourself in the industry your hiring manager may already know who you are.

Technique #3: Become Friends with Employees at the Com- pany, Get the Inside Scoop On New Openings

This last technique is for people who are good at networking. While it’s weird to become friends with someone simply because they work at a dream studio, it is totally normal and good to try to surround yourself with artists who are artistically where you want to be.

Word of mouth referrals accounts for the majority of artists hired at studios around the world, so as soon as the right gig pops up, your friends may be able to give you the inside scoop.

But how are we going to find these friends?…

How to Land a VFX Job - Ocean Rendering in Mantra

How to Network with Other VFX Artists

More than portfolios, demo reels, experience, and resumes, it’s your network that will yield the greatest impact on your career. A great network of motivated artists is a powerful asset. Thankfully, you don’t have to live in a major VFX city to start networking with fellow creatives. There are many different options for gaining friends in the industry.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to network with other VFX artists.

1. Online Groups

The internet is littered with online VFX groups. From Facebook to Discord, you’ll find an FX group for just about every major artistic discipline in the industry. Online groups are a great way to meet people from around the globe and give feedback on projects. They are also a perfect place to get first dibs on new roles that pop up in the industry.

2. Meetups

There are hundreds of in-person VFX meetups around the world. If you happen to live near one, there is no excuse to not attend each and every meeting. Aside from working in a studio, in-person meetups are probably the best way to make real friends in the industry.

3. Events

While meetups are local gatherings, Events can draw crowds from all over the world. There are dozens of incredible VFX events around the world, but the cream of the crop is SIGGRAPH. The conference draws thousands of artists in the industry and is one of the coolest nerd-fests you’ll ever attend. You may feel like you know a lot about VFX, but SIGGRAPH takes it to a whole new level. There are also plenty of parties to meet fellow artists.

4. Social Media

Social media isn’t just for posting pictures of latte art, it’s a fantastic way to connect with fellow VFX artists. Instead of mindlessly scrolling on Instagram, search for hashtags related to your niche like #Houdini or #Compositing. Comment on as many posts as you can. DM people and let them know you love their work. Be an all-around good person and you’ll soon find interesting projects and collaborations heading your way.

How to Land a VFX Job - Explosion FX Image

Growing Your VFX Skills

VFX isn’t something you simply learn and move on from, it’s an ongoing process that will require constant refinement and learning. As such, you should be regularly investing in your skills. The best VFX artists are constantly learning, playing, and collaborating on VFX projects.

As you probably know, we’ve specifically designed our VFX courses to work around busy FX artist schedules, but we’re not the only VFX school on the block. There are literally dozens of great VFX education companies out there that would love to teach you a new skill or technique.

Get in the habit of learning a new VFX skill every single day. There really isn’t a ‘hack’ to getting to the top. It takes a commitment to learning and a love of the industry.

How to Land a VFX Job - Volcano Eruption Realtime VFX

Staying Up-to-Date with the Industry

It’s also important for you to stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends, techniques, and artists. As a result, you should be regularly visiting websites that feature information about what’s going on around the industry. Here are a few of our favorite places for VFX news:

How to Land a VFX Job - Chase Course Explosion

Next Steps: Your Checklist

So what do you do with all of this info?

Every Day:

  1. Comment On Other Artists’ Work
  2. DM or Reach Out to Artists Personally
  3. Learn Something New (Tutorial, Course, etc.)


Every Week:

  1. Create an Impressive Project for Social Media
  2. Check Jobs Boards
  3. Read Up on the Latest VFX News
  4. Interact in Online Groups


Every Month:

  1. Connect with Your VFX Contacts & Friends
  2. Upload a Good Project to Your Portfolio
  3. Update Your Artstation, Behance, and Dribbble
  4. Attend a VFX Meetup


Every Year:

  1. Update Your Demo Reel
  2. Create Goals for Your Education
  3. Attend a VFX Event


Get Free Course Lessons

If you are passionate about learning and improving your VFX skills, we highly recommend signing up for free courses lessons over on Rebelway. All of our courses offer free lessons that you can instantly receive in your inbox.

You can receive your free course lessons by visiting this link.

Hit Us Up if You Need Advice

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to landing a dream VFX job. If you ever have a question about the VFX industry or need a little advice for your career, the team at Rebelway is here to help. Just email [email protected]

Thanks for being an awesome member of the VFX community.

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